Sex, Lies, and Honor in Italian Rape Law




Van Cleave, Rachel A.

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Suffolk University Law Review


Although nearly 400 years old, the trial of artist Agostino Tassi for the rape of the young Baroque artist, Artemisia Gentileschi, is instructive for what it reveals about the importance of honor in Italian culture and law. While there is very little judicial language from the Tassi, trial to analyze for bias, the testimonies of Agostino, Artemisia, and others, as well as information about surrounding events, demonstrate not only attitudes about how women should behave, but also a specific concept of female honor that the Cristiano opinion echoed.

The first section of this Article describes the judicial proceedings against Agostino Tassi for the rape of Artemisia Gentileschi based on the documents uncovered by a number of historians. The next section discusses the importance of honor in Italy, both generally, and specifically during the late Renaissance period. This section also suggests links between the importance of preserving and restoring honor to the proceeding against Tassi, as well as how this concept may be reflected in the art of Artemisia. Against this background of the rape of Artemisia and the "honor culture," this Article analyzes the Italian Supreme Court's opinion overturning Cristiano's conviction for raping a woman who wore jeans.



Rape, Italy, Honor culture


38 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 427 (2005)